This charming little bugger is a real treasure. You can find them for a few cents in thriftstores or garage sales. Once you figure out it works (it’s easy, I promise!) you’ll surely fall in love with it.
Produced in the mid sixties, the Agfa Rapid cameras tend to come cheap because they take their film in funny little metal cartridges you have to fill with 35mm film yourself. This is real easy though, see Zark’s review of the Agfa Iso-rapid for an excellent description of how to do this.
Once you have filled your camera with the film of your choice, you’re ready to go. The camera has four aperture settings, plus an automatic setting. You can focus by turning the metal ring on the lens, choosing either from the three zones listed above the lens, or the seven distances listed under the lens. No ISO setting, as the film cartriges were originally designed to automatically set the camera to the right ISO by means of a metal coding thingy. I haven’t figured out what coding my cartriges have, so I just don’t worry about it.
The Isomat is a funny little camera to experiment with. The simple interior is perfectly suited for messing about with in-camera masks and filters. Being such cheapass things, I never feel any remorse about taping stuff to the inside of anything. The 24 × 24mm square picture format means you can squeeze quite a number of pictures on a roll, even if you don’t manage to stuff an entire roll in your cartridge. Don’t forget to ask for your cartridge back when you have your roll processed though! Better not go to your local grocery store, but use a professional lab. Or process them yourself (as I did, hence the nasty scratches on some of the negatives).
I must admit, when I first bought this camera, I was disappointed, I thought I could never use it because of the strance film cartridge. But once I realized I could fill them myself, I have really fallen in love with it. It takes a bit more effort to use than most cameras, but it’s really worth it.